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[Canadian Governor General Julie Payette (third from left), a former astronaut, visited Fermilab on April 26. Shown are Fermilab Chief Operating Officer Tim Meyer (from left), Fermilab Chief of Staff Hema Ramamoorthi, Payette, U.S. Department of Energy Fermi Site Office Manager Mike Weis, Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer and York University Dean of Science Ray Jayawardhana.]

BATAVIA – From recently announced scientific breakthroughs to new global partnerships, accolades, a public presentation and an an astronaut’s visit, high energy aptly describes the activity level at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia.

The Axion Dark Matter Experiment in April revealed a breakthrough in detection technology, according to a Fermilab news release. Forty years ago, scientists theorized a new kind of low-mass particle – the axion – that could solve one of the enduring mysteries of nature: what dark matter is made of. Now a new chapter in the search for that particle has begun.

ADMX is the world’s first and only experiment to have achieved the necessary sensitivity to hear the telltale signs of dark matter axions. This technological breakthrough is the result of decades of research and development, with the latest piece of the puzzle coming in the form of a quantum-enabled device that allows ADMX to listen for axions more closely than any experiment ever built.

ADMX is managed by Fermilab and located at the University of Washington. The new result, the first from the second-generation run of ADMX, sets limits on a small range of frequencies where axions may be hiding and sets the stage for a wider search.

“This result signals the start of the true hunt for axions,” Fermilab scientist Andrew Sonnenschein, the operations manager for ADMX, stated in the release. “If dark matter axions exist within the frequency band we will be probing for the next few years, then it’s only a matter of time before we find them.”

ADMX is an axion haloscope — essentially a large, low-noise radio receiver, which scientists tune to different frequencies and listen to in order to find the axion signal frequency. Axions almost never interact with matter, but with the aid of a strong magnetic field and a cold, dark, properly tuned, reflective box, ADMX can hear photons created when axions convert into electromagnetic waves inside the detector.

ADMX will now test millions of frequencies at this level of sensitivity. If axions are found, it would be a major discovery that could explain not only dark matter, but other lingering mysteries of the universe. If ADMX does not find axions, that may force theorists to devise new solutions to those riddles.

“A discovery could come at any time over the next few years,” scientist Aaron Chou of Fermilab stated in the release. “It’s been a long road getting to this point, but we’re about to begin the most exciting time in this ongoing search for axions.”

["Alien Universe" is the latest book from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory senior scientist Donald Lincoln of Geneva, who has received the Career Achievement Alumni Award from his alma mater. He will be part of a Fermilab public panel May 12 sharing science stories.]

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and India’s Atomic Energy Secretary Sekhar Basu signed an agreement in New Delhi on April 16 to expand the two countries’ collaboration on science and technology projects, a release stated. It opens the way for jointly advancing cutting-edge neutrino science projects underway in both countries: the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) with the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) hosted at Fermilab and the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO).

LBNF/DUNE brings together scientists from around the world to discover the role that tiny particles known as neutrinos play in the universe. More than 1,000 scientists from more than 170 institutions in 31 countries work on LBNF/DUNE and celebrated its groundbreaking in July 2017. The project will use Fermilab’s particle accelerators to send the world’s most intense beam of high-energy neutrinos to massive neutrino detectors in South Dakota that will explore their interactions with matter.

“[The new agreement] will facilitate U.S. participation in building some of the hardware for INO, while Indian scientists do the same for … DUNE," Vivek Datar, INO spokesperson and project director, Taha Institute of Fundamental Research, stated in the release.

Fermilab senior scientist Donald Lincoln of Geneva has received the Career Achievement Alumni Award from his alma mater, Indiana’s Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, for his career achievements, community service and service to the institute.

Lincoln, a 1986 physics and mathematics graduate, has helped lead America’s premier particle physics laboratory, a release stated. He has co-authored more than 1,000 scientific publications ranging from microscopic black holes and extra dimensions to the elusive Higgs boson. He was part of the teams that discovered the top quark and the Higgs boson.

One of his goals has been to make the universe easier to understand. He has written a 12-hour-long video course, "Theory of Everything," for The Great Courses, is a frequent contributor to CNN, appeared on the television show "NOVA," and has given hundreds of lectures across four continents. He has authored three books about particle physics, and his fourth book, "Alien Universe," combines astrobiology and popular reports of alien visitation to weave together a complete tale of the possibility of life on other planets.

He will be part of the panel being recorded at Fermilab for an edition of The Story Collider, an event open to the public at 8 p.m. May 12. He will be joined by Mike Albrow, physicist, author and actor; Cindy Joe, engineering physicist and advocate of STEM for young women; Herman White, physicist and science communicator; and visual artist Lindsay Olson, Fermilab’s first artist-in-residence.

Canadian Governor General Julie Payette visited Fermilab on April 26 to celebrate decades of cooperation between the U.S. Department of Energy laboratory and scientists from Canadian universities and labs. A signing ceremony marked a new partnership between Fermilab and York University in Toronto in support of DUNE, a release stated.

Payette trained as an engineer and spent more than 20 years as an astronaut, flying two missions in space and serving as capsule communicator at NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston as well as chief astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency.